Hurling and LaCrosse – What’s That?

July 20, 2015

These are two great sports that are many centuries old but get little recognition.  Many more sport fans in the USA have heard of Lacrosse than Hurling, on the contrary, both sports are getting more popular and especially Lacrosse.  Increasingly, high schools are looking to adopt Lacrosse into their sports programs as an alternative to football. Football is not about to be replaced but Lacrosse offers a less physical toll on the young athlete’s body. Hurling which is rooted in Irish culture is gaining some popularity in America with even some colleges offering the chance to play.

A quick summary of each sport: Lacrosse, a team sport played on grass with a ten-player squad which includes one goal keeper. Players use a netted stick called a Crosse to catch and pass a rubber ball.  Players run and pass to move the ball forward to be able to score a goal in a netted cage assembly.  Hurling, a team sport played on grass with a fifteen-player squad which includes one goal keeper.  Players use a Hurley (a wooden stick with a paddle like top) to advance the ball along with swatted hand passes to advance the ball forward as well as running to get a shot on goal. Of course, there are rules that are applied to both games that regulate the way the ball is advanced.  One player cannot just run down the field with the ball and take a shot on goal.  There are limitations how long you can run with ball without passing.

Lacrosse has various versions and dimensions that are played throughout the world.  The most common is Field Lacrosse played outside on grass or synthetic turf field with dimensions of 110 yards long by 60 yards wide.  Lacrosse has a version called Box Lacrosse which is typically an indoor game with only six players per side and the field of play is smaller. In Field Lacrosse, the goal sits in a circular crease of 18 feet diameter.

Hurling field is not always consistent in size, but they can range from 140 to 160 yards long to 90 to 100 yards wide.  Each end has H shaped goals with the posts standing at 20 to 23 feet high with the crossbar standing at around 8 feet.  A net extending behind is attached to the crossbar and lower goal posts.

By now you are probably thinking that these are basically games with players running around with sticks and balls trying to score by either swatting or flinging a ball at a goal.  Okay you are right, except you shouldn’t think an opposing player is just going to let you pass and run with a stick as you darn well please.  These are contact sports and collisions happen.  There are defenders in both games that are going to trying to change your course and that is where the skill lies.  As a ball handler, players can use their athleticism and stick skills to move forward.

The protective equipment for each sport is a significant difference.  This difference in equipment affects the game play and rules of each sport becoming essential part of the sport as a whole.  The Hurling equipment is fairly basic with the Hurley stick, a helmet, some cleats and a ball called a Sliotar.  Like in baseball with a bat, the Hurley can range in size best fitted for the player and their style.  Lacrosse equipment consists of the Crosse, helmet, cleats, ball and protective pads which include shoulder, arm and rib pads and gloves. As you can see, the equipment affects the type of contact that takes place on the field.

When I first saw a Hurling match at least twenty years ago and was intrigued by this sport.  Here in the United States, we don’t hear much about it, and most sport fans have not a clue what it is. Go ask somebody if they know what Hurling is and the responses you will get will be comical.  Unless you have some kind of satellite feed from Ireland, Americans will not know.  Some say Hurling is one of the oldest sports that it still being played which makes sense. Early players just needed a stick, a rock, a tree and few buddies and the game was on.

My first recollection of Lacrosse was seeing it on ESPN being played by college guys. The game was played at a higher speed than any other sport I seen.  It was like trying to watch hockey on television, very hard to follow the tiny ball.  Now I have seen it being played by men and women, boys and girls in all levels of schools and clubs.

As a sports fan, you really have to check out these sports and give them a chance to grow on you.  For years I couldn’t take interest in soccer but over time I am starting to understand and appreciate aspects of the game. If I ever make over to Ireland, I want to see a Hurling match just because they love it just like American love football.